It is not uncommon for Nigerian state governors at certain anniversaries of their administration to celebrate it by inviting top federal government officials to come commission some new projects with fanfare. In most cases since the return of constitutional rule in 1999, emphasis would be on new roads and new buildings. Not many think of new industries to create wealth.
But celebrating the 32 years anniversary of Akwa Ibom state in September 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was invited to commission a couple of high profile industries and a new power plant initiated and completed by Governor Udom Emmanuel. These include the 260kva Power Plant at Ekim in Itu local government area said to be the most digitized power sub-station in West Africa to ensure the realization of the dream of Power-For-All by December 2021; a flour processing mill said to have the capacity to produce 500 metric tonnes of flour per day and a plywood factory in Onna.
St. Gabriel’s Coconut Oil Refinery is expected to commence production of Virgin Coconut oil before the end of the year 2019. You also have a USD60 million investment in Qua Steel in Eket – two automobile plants by Israeli and Chinese investors for Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO hangers); a USD 3billion Fertilizer manufacturing plant at Ikot Abasi; Ethanol plant in Ikot Abasi and LED factory for manufacturing low energy bulbs.
An accomplished banker before venturing into politics, business-inclined activities seem to be the stock of Udom Emmanuel. Already initiated also is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Black Rhino, operator of Qua IboePower Plant (QIPP) for the commencement of Qua Iboe Power Plant Project in Ibeno Local Government Area.
There is also the 50,000 square free trade zone at Ikot Abasi which will consist of logistics Jetty, petrochemical plant, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG plant), among others. Modular refineries are set to take off in Ibeno, a high-profile housing estate along Oron road with complete amenities ranging from 1500sq-3000sq; housing units for civil servants at Ikot Ada Idem in collaboration with APICO and the 21-floor office complex which is iconic and the tallest in the Southern part of Nigeria.
Work has reached an advanced stage at a tyre-manufacturing industry, Quail Petroleum in Uruan comprising a power plant, jetty and gas plant; a Chinese industrial Park as well as the Ibom Power Phase 2 which will produce 500 megawatt.
If there is one governor who has made economic acceleration through industrialization the chief plank of his administration, it is undoubtedly Udom Emmanuel. He is well educated and exposed, rising to the position of executive director in one of Nigeria’s frontline banks. A first class financial expert who had worked at the highest level of international investment before becoming governor, his background prepared him for this present role. No wonder the people of his state reelected him in 2019 for another 4-year term. Although his quest to industrialize Akwa Ibom has met with fierce criticisms by some vested interests, the governor has been unflagging.
In clear demonstration of financial expertise and to give teeth to the financial policy of his administration, Emmanuel, on August 18, 2015, sent a request to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, seeking approval for the conversion of the commercial bank loans obtained by a previous administration into Federal Government bonds. He seems at home with the financial triggers for economic renaissance. As a leader in a third-world economy, he knows how industrialization changed the fortunes of the people of the Western world. He has been working to recreate same in his peaceful state that adjoins the Atlantic Ocean.
Altogether, there are more than 17 large and small scale industries located in various parts of the state, which have either started production or are still under construction. Never in the history of Akwa Ibom has one administration been able to attract so many industries within so short a time.
The Udom Emmanuel administration is also helping private individual entrepreneurs to negotiate the purchase of land at cheap rate from local communities, creating the enabling environment for these businessmen to open new industries. One of such men is Charles Udonwa whose company, Norfin Offshore Ltd, is constructing a ship-building yard in Oruk-Anam Local Government Area of the state.
The company is investing an initial capital of $5million in the project to build supply-vessels for oil platforms, tugboats, batches, ocean fishing boats, and ferries for both Nigerian and foreign markets. Building a ship, like an LNG vessel of 5,000 metric tons in Singapore, can cost up to $5million but in Nigeria with $3million it can be done. Nofin Offshore has keyed into Udom’s industrialization policy and is already supplying ships for movement of crews and supports services to some oil companies in Nigeria. Norfin Offshore is a good example of the much-touted of foreign direct investments, which in many states remain on the pages of newspapers and soundbite for television.
Akwa Ibom state is now home to the largest syringe manufacturing factory in Africa as well as a meter-manufacturing company described by the Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as an “exceedingly important project.” The global disposable syringe market is expected to reach $7.5billion (N2.6trillion) in 2022, according to Transparency Market Research, just as disposable syringes are the most consumed medical devices in the world. An estimated 39 billion units can be sold annually, with market value of approximately $4.93billion. The disposable syringes market has been segmented into two major types: safety syringes and conventional syringes. With projected annual earnings of about $15million (N5.5billion), Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company hopes to initially take hundreds of Nigerian youths off the congested labour market, with further commitment to grow the numbers.
The Metering Solutions Manufacturing Services Ltd (MSMSL) in Onna is already assembling digital meters. The company has started supplying meters to power distribution companies.
The fertilizer blending factory in Abak (about 20 kilometres from Uyo) the state began business in December 2018. The factory is owned by a U.S-based company, Greenwell Technologies. It can blend over 2,400 bags every 24 hours using one blender. Its two blenders can be activated depending on products demand. The factory blends for various customers, including the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and for other customers in all the 36 states and Abuja. The factory presently sources its raw materials like potash, urea, and sulphate from outside Akwa Ibom, but is hopeful that in the future it can source raw materials from within the state. Apart from the primary economic benefict of fertilizer, the factory will create more opportunities for people going into production of sacks. All these are economic ideas at work.
The Chinese too are investing with the building of a $25 million international market in Eket, the southern part of Akwa Ibom. The market is 100 percent Chinese investment. Employing about 5,000 casual workers in the construction work, the company is planning to build a similar market in other parts of the state, as well as the methanol plant and tyre manufacturing plant.
There are palm oil processing mills, palm kernel processing plants, integrated farms, a starch manufacturing facility, a rice mill, and other agro-related factories, several of them wholly owned by private firms, while others are partnerships between the state government and private firms.
The pearl of all these is the $4.2billion Ibom Deep Seaport Project, a definite game changer for the Nigerian’s economy when completed. Constructed on a 14,400-hectare site as a part of a proposed industrial city, the Seaport project is intended to become a major national and regional economic gateway that will provide additional container handling capacity for the country as the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), a federal agency overseeing the project, has confirmed.
In addition to containers, the project is expected to handle petroleum products (export and import), crude oil and natural gas (export), vehicles (import) and bulk trade in natural resources (import and export). It is planned to be the deepest port in the West African sub-region.
Truly, at 32, Akwa Ibom state has taken off industrially. There is a modular refinery with a capacity of 6000 barrels per day, which has already been built in the United States of America, and is ready for shipment down to the state. All licences required have been secured.
There is opportunity for fish production in the state with a coastline of about 129km, which is complemented by abundant rivers, tributaries, mangrove, swamps, creeks and flood plains. The marine waters are very rich in aquatic animals and fishes, while the continental shelf, creeks and swamps are the natural homes for various species of fishes, crustaceans and shrimps.
No doubt, when all of these are synergized, one can boldly say that Emmanuel will “finish well” in his second term as governor.
•Ms. Comfort Akadu is a freelance journalist and is based in Oron, Akwa Ibom.